Kathy Anderson has seen the importance of resources to build and expand Iowa’s workforce from multiple perspectives. As the division administrator for Iowa Workforce Development’s Business Engagement Division, she now leads a team that connects employers with resources to build and strengthen their teams.
Kathy grew up outside of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and graduated from University of South Dakota. She started her career with roles at Gateway and Siouxland Chamber of Commerce in Sioux City before moving with her family to the Des Moines area.
She spent 10 years at Iowa Economic Development Authority, including leading the Home Base Iowa program that is designed to connect military veterans with employment opportunities in Iowa. She also led employee engagement at Kreg Tool, an Iowa-based manufacturing company.
In September 2022, she joined Iowa Workforce Development to launch the Business Engagement Division that reorganized employees around the state to create a more efficient team to assess and resolve workforce challenges of Iowa employers.
1. What resources does the Business Engagement Division provide to Iowa employers?
We have a team of 16 Business Engagement Consultants across the state whose primary job is to proactively reach out to employers to find pain points and the specific needs in hiring and retaining the employees they need for business success. Very broadly, our role is to help employers understand the resources available. A business owner or HR manager doesn’t have time to search through the more than 100 programs available to them; now they have one person who can connect them.
Our goal is not to replace any of the work done at the local level, but instead to be a helpful partner to individual businesses or also work through local chambers of commerce, economic development teams, community colleges and more.
2. How has the program evolved over its first year?
In the first 100 days after the launch of the Business Engagement Division, the team and leadership met with just shy of 2,700 employers. Employers across the state were thankful for the outreach and the opportunity for a single resource that can connect them with all the resources in the state.
Then from January through August 2023, we met with 4,300 employers and have also incorporated resources for apprenticeships and internships into the Business Engagement Division. Our goal is to be a one-stop for employers who are exploring and building workforce, surviving a slowdown or developing, expanding, and retaining workforce.
We’ve seen a number of successful partnerships, including attracting dozens of applicants to jobs that had previously been difficult to fill.
3. What advantages does Iowa offer to employers as they grow and strengthen their workforce?
A lot of the pieces of the Business Engagement Division are unique to Iowa, especially the amount of proactive outreach to employers. Iowa’s registered apprenticeship program leads the nation. We hope that by combining efforts across agencies and divisions, we can streamline workloads and deliver even more value to current and prospective employers.
4. What advice do you have for someone considering a move or return to Iowa?
My advice to anyone moving to Iowa, as a business owner or as an individual/family is to take it all in. By that, I mean, take the time to wave to your neighbor, say hi to a co-worker or ask your team members about their weekend. Iowa is beyond nice—it’s more like one big, small town where people truly do know each other, serve alongside each other, and help each other. If you take the first step, Iowa and its people will welcome you, your family, your skills, talents and even your quirks.
Early in my career, I was asked to relocate to California with Gateway as they moved their headquarters. While we evaluated the area and certainly enjoyed the weather, we declined. Then within less than two years, we ended up relocating to Central Iowa for another opportunity. I learned I was pregnant with our first child right before we moved to Iowa. We never could picture raising a family in Southern California the way we could in the Midwest. 22 years and 2 children later, I know with absolute certainty we made the right choice, both personally and professionally to stay in Iowa.
5. Please share three recommendations of things to do or places to go in Iowa.
My three recommendations for things to do and places to go, each by category—live music, fun with friends and taking in the outdoors:
- Live Music: Hoyt Sherman Place and the Lauridsen Amphitheatre are the two best locations for live music. One is a gorgeous historic building and the other is a very accessible newer outdoor venue. The sound, the quality of the acts and the top-notch staff of each are gems in Central Iowa.
- Fun with Friends: The Winchester in Valley Junction, Trostel’s Greenbriar in Johnston and Destination Grill in Johnston/Grimes all offer outstanding cocktail experiences in Central Iowa.
- Outdoor fun: Terra Park in Johnston has the best path and sunset views for a long walk and catching up with a neighbor. Browns Woods and Ledges State Park are great places for a local hike or trail run with some elevation. Kayaking at Racoon River is always a great time. And then there are bike trails… more than 1,800 miles of them across the state.
Published August 2023.